February 7, 2013, Ulaanbaatar - How much did Ulaanbaatar invest last year to improve its roads? How much did it spend on school lunches? How much did it raise in local taxes? The Ulaanbaatar City Administration and the World Bank are taking a first step in trying to answer such questions.
At the request of Ulaanbaatar City Council, the World Bank has undertaken an initial analysis in partnership with the City Administration to assess the current status of UB City finances. The findings are summarized in the report City Finances of Ulaanbaatar and were discussed at a workshop on January 30, 2013 that was chaired by Mr. N. Bataa, Vice Mayor for Finance and Economics, and that brought together over 100 participants from the UB Municipality, City Council, District Governors, academics, and civil society.
"The State is like a shopping mall where citizens get services. In the same way a shop displays all its products with a price for every customer to see, the State should be open and give comprehensive information to all its citizens on its services," said Mr. E. Bat-Uul, Mayor and Governor of Ulaanbaatar City in his opening remarks. Such information is also critical for city leaders to make decisions about future investments and expansion of services.
There are several steps that the UB City can take to that purpose. “While the report shows that Ulaanbaatar is fully capable of funding its services and investments,” said Meskerem Brhane, Senior Urban Development Specialist at the World Bank, “the current way of recording revenues and expenditures makes it hard for city leaders and taxpayers to understand the actual use of funds.” Over the coming months, the City Administration will work together with the World Bank to develop a budgeting and accounting system that fully captures how much taxes are collected and how much resource are spent to deliver each service.
“The leaders of Ulaanbaatar City have made a strong commitment to transparency and accountability,” said Coralie Gevers, Country Manager for the World Bank in Mongolia. “The World Bank is determined to assist Ulaanbaatar City in providing citizens with useful and reliable budget information on which citizens can base their views and hold the Municipality accountable,” she added.
This study is the first part of a two-year program of research and technical support initiated at the request of Ulaanbaatar City.